Pollworkers are the link between election administration—the laws, rules and procedures that govern the election process—and the voters. They are the line staff of the democratic process. This makes pollworker training one of the most important components of a fair and effective election system.
Properly trained pollworkers thoroughly understand the laws and procedures for voting in their state, exercise discretion responsibly, seek guidance when appropriate, and act in a professional and respectful manner with all voters. Poorly trained pollworkers, on the other hand, are not well acquainted with their state’s laws and procedures for voting, exercise discretion arbitrarily and treat some voters with considerably more deference than other voters. The differences can lead to illegally disenfranchised voters, unwanted media attention and legal challenges.
Requiring statewide uniformity in pollworker training is critically important. It not only has the advantage of saving money, since each local jurisdiction will no longer devote time and money to creating or updating its own program, but it will also help ensure a near-uniform experience for voters across the state as they go to cast their ballots. The uniformity of experience is an important part of equity and fairness in the election system. In descriptions of four states that follow, three require local jurisdiction adoption of state training (Iowa, North Carolina and Wisconsin), and one (Missouri) does not.
Collaborating with Local Election Officials
Local elections officials have developed much useful training information over the years, and often they emphasize different elements. Input from local elections officials into the development of a statewide, uniform training will improve the content and ensure that most elements are included.
When developing a pollworker training program, election officials may find it helpful to consult inclusively with representatives of different voting constituencies, especially any that have been historically marginalized, e.g. disabilities, literacy-challenged, etc. Officials may also want to consult with the election system’s “constituency,” including organizations and political parties conducting voter registration drives.
Election officials should take into account at least two factors when selecting training methods: pollworkers’ diversity and pollworkers’ need to refer to materials after formal training. People from all parts of the community should be able to serve as pollworkers, including those who are old, young, without advanced levels of education and with disabilities. Materials therefore should be developed that not only reflect different styles of learning but also that recognize pollworkers’ varying skills and competencies.
Read Project Vote's Policy Brief on Poll Worker Training here.